Monday, October 31, 2016

The Hunt (the final entry)

‘I am going to hunt you down. I am going to hunt you down’. Now there may have also been the employment of the F word in that sentence, which was perhaps unfortunate for the male runner just in front of me, its usage reflected more the wave of positive emotion that swept over me rather than anything of murderous intent. It was 28 k and I suddenly felt great!

Injury aside I had come into the final few days in good form. I had been happily reconciled with the fact that my taper, which had been heavy on rest and light on miles had allowed my body to recover from what had been a very intense window of training where miles had increased steeply. I had started to feel my calf again but was confident to put this down to phantom pains and my body losing a little flexibility that would come back on race day. I had carried a water bottle around with me like a fifth limb and was happily hydrated. I ate well and my little girl Esme had given me three uninterrupted nights of sleep. Even on the final night before the marathon the wake up I got from her and the party across the road (a first since we’ve moved here) was only temporary. I moved into the spare room and the extra hour of daylight meant that I slept a sleep of kings. Finally, the weather was ideal with the only complaint being that there could be no complaints with the weather. It was dry, not humid, with no wind. Perfect. So, all things considered I couldn’t have been happier.

As for the race then I had my plan and I stuck with it. I began ahead of the 3-hour markers knowing that they always start off fast and would soon spill past me thus giving me a marker to aim for later in the race. This they did just before mile 3. Despite their wave washing over at the most inopportune time – the first drinks station – I managed to tag a water and with that began my feeding.

I had been told, backed up through my experience, that you need to take on food and drink early in the race. The longer the run goes on the less likely you will want to take on food until finally it’s too late and you’ve hit the wall. So, a gel and half a bottle of water at 5 k is followed up by a banana and bottle of water mixed with a Dioralyte I take from my parents at 10. A Dioralyte is an oral rehydration sachet that does much the same job as an isotonic drink except with less sugar and fancy packaging. I’ve had a lot of Dioralytes over the years from when I lived and travelled overseas and after bouts of gastro-enteritis. I’m hoping that there will be none of the gastro-enteritis today.

This routine of gels and water continue up to the half-way mark with water also been used to cool the head and the thigh muscles. It is not really hot but anything to lower the body temperature a little I think is good.

At the half-way point I am almost a full minute down at 1 hr 30 mins 58 seconds. While everything has gone to plan I am not that happy for three reasons.

1.      The first is that aside from running in a serene Phoenix Park during our re-entry, so beautiful the morning is, I don’t feel I’ve been running fluidly at all. I thought by going a minute over the 1 hr 30 mark, a full 8 minutes more than my half marathon PB, would have been feeling fresh.
2.      By the time I actually hit the official half-marathon marker my watch is reading not 21.1 but 21.4 and I realise that every estimate from here on in, which is hard to do when you’re running, will have to remember this.
3.      And finally, my heart-rate monitor continues to read MAXIMUM. Having gotten a lovely new Garmin that has a wrist heart rate monitor that goes from Warm Up, Easy, Aerobic, Threshold to Maximum everytime I hit my 3 hr race pace of 4.15 it hits MAXIMUM.

Consequently, as I pass the half-way marker I decide two things, one is to fuck the heart-rate monitor. I don’t feel great but I don’t feel terrible either so if I blow up I blow up. Two, maybe marathons are not my thing after all.

All the way along Crumlin towards Walkinstown I keep moving steadily taking my third gel and some more water. Shortly after the Walkinstown roundabout I meet my sister and niece for my second and final banana and Dioralyte station. I eat half the banana and drink a third of the Dioralyte, give them a smile and keep going.

And then three kilometres later something special happens. I suddenly feel good. A purple patch down the beautifully paved Templeogue Road heading for Terenure. I first sense it when I realise that I actually recognise my surroundings, something I have generally been unable to do in past Dublin marathons when I reach the 17 and 18 mile marks. In the past I’ve just been looking for the markers trying to count them down. However, now I am looking at streets and roads I have actually driven on. Then I cop that I am starting to pass people a little more easily. And finally I feel like I am not really noticing the time. Later I will see that my kilometre times from 25 k read 4.12, 4.12, 4.12, 4.12 before at 29 k I can no longer hide my desire to start pushing and hunting the red balloon of the 3 hr marker that is becoming increasingly visible in the distance.

Suddenly the hunt is on and while I am not thinking of sub 3 I am thinking of attacking. 29 k is a 4.09, 30 k a 4.06, 31 k a 4.02, 32 k a 4.07 while 33 k knowing I have less than 10 to go is a 3.59! At this stage I’ve joined forces with Eugene from Middleton County Cork. I hadn’t really realised but I have been running with him since the Cahpelizard fly-over but it is only in the last 14 k that we both see that we are both moving at the same pace. An observation ‘you’re running well’ and a question, ‘have you ever broken 3 hrs before?’ confirms that we are running in tandem now and fighting together. There are Eugene’s in every race and if you find one it is important to hang on to them.

As we hit Clonskeagh and the beginnings of a long drag that will finish with Heartbreak Hill we are on each other’s shoulders keeping the tempo going. At this point while we are passing more and more runners we are starting to feel the pain 34 k in 4.12, 35 k in 4.15 and 36 k in 4.19. We have some 6 k and a bit to go and all of a sudden the sub 3 is on, even if I still won’t allow myself to believe it. I know that my distance clock is off and I know that it might be tight so all I can do is keep on going.

We take off down the hill from Heartbreak and burn the next 37 k up in 4.04 before turning onto Stillorgan and the almost run for home and 38 k in 4.06. God knows what my heart-rate monitor is thinking now but feck it, keep on moving. At one stage Eugene drops a little behind me and I call back to him ‘C’mon Eugene, I need you as much as you need me’ and he pulls back up to me and we pile over the UCD fly-over back down onto the Stillorgan Road before shooting down Nutley Lane where he drives us forward, 39 k in 4.08.

As we turn onto Merrion Road he swears that we better not let this slip now. Close up ahead are the 3 hour balloons with only a few remaining runners with them, either because they’ve sent their group on or already burnt them off. The shouts from Trim and Middleton A.C. supporters grows. The toughest k comes at 40 when it is still too early for the mind to think that sure you’ve only more than a mile or a couple of k to go but the body is now beginning to burn. All around us runners are tiring and slowing and cramping and cursing. It feels like I am running through a collage of early marathons with past versions of myself sprawled along the road. I recognise in the pain of the faces of those whose times are now beyond them myself in every one of my past five marathons where I have really gone for sub 3.

Today though, it is within my grasp. I can’t let it slip now. I am not sure if it is the enthusiasm or the fear that starts to drive me forward. I push past the 3 hour balloon 41 k in 4.07. Eugene starts to drift a little back though he still is moving. I guess he knows he has it in the bag at this point. I refuse to believe. I hit 42 k in 4.09. It is only then that I start to see the 800 metre to go marker, the 400 metre to go marker. It’s hard to do Maths but even still I look at my watch and know I can run 400 metres in less than 2 and a half minutes.

I pass by the FM 104 car that teased me two years ago and then I see it. The finish. And I can read the time 2.58.10, .11, .12, .13, .14. It’s a couple of hundred metres to go and I know almost 10 years of trying have finally been ended I begin to feel the tears well up. I start to pump the fist to the crowd. I can feel the emotion beginning to grow. And then I’m over. I’ve done it. It’s a Thomas Barr moment and I am euphoric.

Dublin Marathon 2016
2 hr 59 mins even.

I put the time up later on Facebook and for the first time in my social media life I actually give it a Like. I think I deserve that.

Then, to everyone; to my wonderful wife and beautiful little girl. To my family who’ve lived the past highs and lows and fuelled me along the way. To Trim A.C. To the crowds of friends and strangers. To the Eugene’s. Thank you.

Finally, to those who it didn’t work out for this year, don’t give up. The marathon is a beast. It killed the first person who ran it all those years ago in Greece and he finished not at 26.2 miles but at 26. Every year it doesn’t give in without taking plenty of runners out with it. Believe it from someone who knows. Don’t feel guilty or down that it didn’t happen. I mean crying as I was being stretchered into a first-aid tent in Edinburgh 2011 because I let my parents down? What’s that all about? Things can always be worse as the guy beside me who was running the wrong up that street can also testify to. Although this might come as cold comfort at the moment. Marathons that don’t work out leave you raw, as well as blistered, and unable to walk down a stairs front-ways like the rest of us. Recover, treat yourself and go again.

(Thanks Ciaran for the photo).

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Hoping for that Thomas Barr moment

I am hoping for a Thomas Barr moment. I am hoping that a season hampered by injury will produce a raw gem to finish. I am hoping that a training regime that had seen me give up on the eternal aim will somehow complete an amazing turnaround and come through by 12.00 tomorrow. I am hoping.

But I am also planning and you should too.

You’ve done the training, you’ve done the work and you’ve earned the right to have a go at whatever ambition you have in mind. I would suggest if you haven’t already settled on a plan, decide on one today and stick with it. That’s not to say you shouldn’t have a plan B or take alternative actions if during the run you find yourself struggling or indeed succeeding. But to begin with, stick to your plan.

If you have decided to do 8 minute miles for the first 10 k then do 8 minute miles for the first 10 k. Don’t let the day and the occasion get to you and do otherwise. Of course you will feel great at the start. You will be surrounded by 18,999 other people who feel great too, why wouldn’t you want to take off down the road like a bull let out at Christmas. But remember one thing how many of those 18,999 others will feel great come 20 miles. They say your race only begins at 20 miles. This is true except for those, like me, whose race has traditionally ended at 20. So will you be amongst those struggling backwards or those powering forward?

If I were to suggest something it would be pick you time you want to aim for. Let us say 4 hours. Run you first 10 kilometres between 0 and 5 seconds slower per kilometre so you will be about 30 seconds down. Then run your next 10 k at your expected pace and you will probably be a couple of seconds quicker each kilometre and inevitably end up being only a few seconds down come half way crossing somewhere about 2 hrs 00 mins and a few seconds. Then at that stage it will be either in you or it won’t. If you can’t run the second half in 1 hr 59 minutes and 50 seconds then you were never going to beat the 4 hours. Don’t run hard the first half expecting to make time so you can hang on. From my experience you don’t really hang on in a marathon. Come mile 24 you are either going forwards or going backwards.

If that is not your plan however then so be it. You’ve worked damn hard in preparing for the marathon so you have earned to run this race however the hell you want. You deserve it.

For me I’ve learnt a lot over the course of my eight marathons, usually from the mistakes I made. I learned I needed to train in my first, to take on energy in my second, to take on water in my fourth and not to take on to much off everything in my fifth. I learnt to have a Plan B in my sixth, to enjoy it in the seventh and to stick to my plan in the eight. In my ninth I hope I will follow my own advice in the ninth.

My plan is to run closer to 4.20 than 4.15 a kilometre for my first 10 k to be down between 30 and 50 seconds after 10 kilometres. Then to stick to race pace in the next 10 so my half way I will be about 20 seconds down coming in no quicker than 1 hr 30 and 15 seconds. For fuel for the first half I will have a gel after 5 k, a banana after 10. Another gel at 15 and three-quarters of one last banana at 20 with gels every 5 k after if I can.

I then want to do something I have never done in a marathon. I want to feel at half way that I am ready to attack. That I am ready to chase down my time. I want to feel like I am the one on the offensive. That I am going to breach the 3 hour wall rather than hang on, hoping my own walls won’t be breached instead.

I aim to have a mental picture of Heartbreak Hill in my head and look forward to it. I plan on seeing it in the person and smiling as I take up it. On reaching its summit I will then mount the final attack building momentum pushing forward and not going back.

And if I can do all that then maybe just maybe, I’ll have my Thomas Barr moment.

To everyone else, good luck with yours.

3k just to give the mind a run out:)

Friday, October 28, 2016

A shout out to... the Fans

When it comes to marathon day there are four types of people in this world.

1.      There are those who cannot understand why you would ever want to run a marathon but will come out to support you for undertaking what is, and don not excuse the pun – a marathon task.
2.      There are those who cannot understand why you would ever want to get up early and stand around for hours often in the wet or cold to cheer on mostly complete strangers.
3.      There are those who now understand why you would do both.
4.      And then there are those who don’t know the marathon is going on and are wondering why there is such a traffic delay on a Sunday morning.

I used to fall into the second category happy or determined to run but never quite understanding the reason so many people supported us. In my second Dublin marathon I remember passing throng and throngs of people whose cheers and claps seemed never to end, irrespective of who was running past them. I remembered how the Americans in south Dublin with college names emblazoned across the warm hoodie tops used to be the most vocal and I thought, “seriously, what is the maximum amount of runners the could know in an Irish marathon?” Yet they just kept shouting and by mile 22 I was so thankful that they did.

It wasn’t until my first attendance of a marathon when I was injured and unable to run that I finally found the enjoyment out of it. I recognised etched in the enthusiastic faces of those early on, the hopes and dreams of PB’s and enjoyable runs. And then I could identify in the pain and grimaces painted across them on the backward stretch the same emotions I had felt in my own runs. And I found myself hitting the nearest shop and buying two big bags of jelly babies for those struggling down Pearse Street who had one last loop of Trinity to do. Jaysus, it was great!

On Sunday I will be on the road this time round and the grins or grimaces will be etched on my side of the barrier with the claps and cheers on the other. A shout to the fans then for helping us home and if you have a few jelly babies comes mile 25 God Bless You!


Thursday, October 27, 2016


I ran the old regular route yesterday – the almost 8k up and back down the Rock Road that was the bread and butter of my early runs. I hadn’t run the route that much of late. Part of that was to get onto the grass for as much as I could to allow the injury to ease. And part of it was the change of season that saw evenings getting darker and the need to swap a country road for a street-lit town.

Along the way I noticed the animal horn had gone. For a couple of months, I had been fascinated by an animal horn that had lay along the fringes of the inbound route. Each time I passed it I wondered of its origin. Was a bull in a car accident and lost its horn during the crash? Had a goat been abducted as it walked along one evening, bundled into the back of a car and only its horn coming lose offer evidence of the crime? Or was it something altogether different. Whatever, it’s not there now.

A lot has changed since I began training this year. Not in the, ‘haven’t they grown up so quick’, ‘everyone is now on smartphones’ type of way. But in the way that those who spend hours outside notice.

When I began running there were the beginnings of spring warmth with snowdrops followed by cowslips, followed by daffodils, followed by those purple yokes followed by the summer crowd of daisy’s, buttercups and dandelions. Now the trees are colouring dramatically and leaves are already beginning to fall.

When I began, the days were chasing onwards and now they are dramatically drawing to a close. With this weekend being the real end when hours fall backwards and darkness descends. It has been an incredibly mild training season and I can remember at least one day when interval training was broken up by taking the shade of riverbank tree. Soon the under-armour that has only made two appearances so far this year will be a regular companion.

There have been ups – such as the greater companionship of the local running club and there have been downs – slow walk backs from injury. But as I get ready to line up for Sunday I can feel happy for a season well ran. It’s good to reflect on that.

Yesterday’s Training
Easy 7 k with some 80 metre strides to finish.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Important to have some Afters

As you reach the final few days to go it might not be a bad idea to spend some time looking ahead past the marathon.

What! Look past the marathon! Are you mad!?

I know it might sound strange but for any runners, either experienced or a first-timer, the end of a marathon can be a tough. Aside from the obvious physiological stress of 26.2 miles (remember, the first guy who ran this died), the mental come down can be difficult too. You have been training for months and months. Everything from that box set to the few drinks with friends on a Friday, a short weekend break away and a few extra hours with loved ones have been sacrificed for this moment.

For many they will have achieved their aim, either to finish, to exact a personal best or to realise a secondary time they had on stand-by. For others, it will not go to plan. Either way, for those who feel they succeed and for those who feel they fell short (and they should never feel they’ve fallen short, believe me I know) what they have in common is that by lunch-time this Sunday it will be over, sometimes leaving quite the gap in the weekly routine.

And it is for this reason that many a runner will experience a low after a marathon, particularly their first. It’s natural.

So, it can be good to have something immediately in the horizon that you can continue to look on to. It doesn’t have to be anything reaching the distance of a marathon but something that might invite you out for a few miles a couple of times a week, to meet up with old friends is to be welcomed.

For me it will be a toss-up between the Run in the Dark mid-November, the Clontarf half marathon along the sea around the same time or the Fat Turkey run up and down Howth (not Nevada where the photo seems to be from) come Christmas.

Yesterday’s Training
Not sure if I should be even calling it training at this stage. Just something to keep the body alert. About a 10 minute warm up, just under 15 minutes at race pace and then 10 minutes slow down. Short and simple.

Monday, October 24, 2016


‘Why don’t you just run it easy?’ Frances asked me, ‘sure aren’t you’re fit enough, even without the proper training?’

And that was all it took.

I had booked a marathon shortly after Dublin 2014. It was to be a European weekend break away with a spring marathon that resembled Sevilla mixed in. I had failed in Dublin but if I continue the training I could come back just as strong in Barcelona. But it didn’t happen in the end. I just didn’t have the dedication, the discipline or the stamina to get the training off the ground again. I needed time to recover from Dublin, mentally as much as physically and getting stuck into a winter full of intervals, tempos, hills and long runs was not the tonic I needed.

However, when I booked the marathon, myself and Frances had also booked flights and accommodation so while I may have relented on the training we weren’t going to give up on the trip. And this is what it would have been -  a lovely relaxing sight-seeing trip except for the fact that there were more than a half dozen marathon runners on board, all wearing old Asics, Mizunos and New Balance; all with that same slight gaunt expression on their face; and all having the look of excitement that goes with pre-marathon running. If this brought me down a little, then the question of a fellow passenger on the way to immigration, “so what time are you looking for?” mistaking my running runners for participation dropped me a little further. And sensing this Frances then suggested I “just run it easy.”

So what to do when you decide to run a marathon last minute?

Go to the Expo and get your race bib and t-shirt, which you in the absence of any other technical top or a Saw Doctors t-shirt will do you for the race.
·         Be grateful that you came over wearing your race runners and a pair of socks that you’ve trained in before.
·         Buy a new pair of runners that you can wear coming back.
·         Buy a pair of shorts.
·         Don’t take advantage of the kindness of your loved one by hijacking the trip and saying we need to be in bed by eight. Instead do everything you would normally do on a sight-seeing trip to Barcelona such as walk up Las Ramblas, visit La Sangrada Família and have a nice meal that evening.
·         Don’t expect support from your loved one along the route except for maybe the very end.
·         Drink water at every stop and take on food whenever you can.
·         Enjoy.

And I did, even getting to stop briefly at the end to give Frances a kiss before lifting the pace home and getting in a shade over 3 hrs 30.

Barcelona Marathon – 3 hrs 30 mins 03 seconds.

Yesterday’s training

Sunday, October 23, 2016


To listen or not to listen.

I guess it all depends on what you normally do.

Personally, when it comes to running with music I don’t. Part of this probably stems from the fact that I have always been pathologically useless in truly understanding technology and thus being able to sort out the whole, running, with a music device that actually has music I’d like to hear on it. While I claim bad genes for this, it is just as likely due to my laziness when it comes to all things digital.

That said I do like having a song play in my head as I run, whenever going solo. Now, I don’t have to know the lines but with a beat of sorts in the brain a long run can be an enjoyable affair with a sound-track playing in the background.

Of course, it is important to make sure whatever song you’re listening to, whether imaginary (like me) or real (like with headphones) your song choice should be one or made up of selections that don’t have high beats per minute, unless you are running a 5k or less. The same goes for absolute rock anthems. I mean Eye of the Tiger is great but do you really need it at mile 4? I would say, no, unless you want to kick on and sprint for him (for the next 22 miles). Ditto for those fast beat songs like the Wankelmut Remix of Asaf Avidan’s One Day. Absolute cracker for the last few hundred metres but a sure thing to ensure your wheels come off if you are listening to it on repeat from the get-go.

Of course, wearing headphones brings up a host of other unwanted issues that include:
·         Not being able to listen to the sights and sounds of a marathon that span from corner crowd cheers to the unison of race watch beeps every mile and kilometre.
·         Coming across as an exceedingly unfriendly git.
·         Being unable to hear your racing colleague shout at you, watch out for that runaway bull/car/pram/piano coming towards you!!!

For me then, I will be running ears open but with a steady beat song already picked out, something from Grounds for Invasion I think.

Yesterday’s Training
My last little long run of 14.5 k taking nearly 1 hr and 5 with 4 middle miles at a shade over race pace.

Things you will (or might) need #7: Bras

Okay so, for a start, this is primarily aimed at women.

And secondly I am not a woman. Consequently treat my remarks in the same vein as if I were commenting on how to speak Swahili.

However, based on the fact that half or close to half of those who are running will be women I thought I should at least proffer the smallest crumbs of advice that have been proffered to me from a female runner.

First, make sure you have a sports bra.

Second, whatever bra you are wearing make sure it isn’t the first time you are wearing it. Like new runners and socks you should have at least brought it out for a few practice runs before you decide to take it along for 42.1 k of continuous movement.

And finally, a second bra can work wonders in that it can enable you to put/store/stash everything from keys to gels. That this gives you a more buxom look for those early marathon photographs is only an added bonus.

Other final female related tips I’ve been told include:
·         Fake tan and 42.1 km of sweat don’t generally mix, something especially relevant to those planning on on going to a mid-term wedding
·         Shaving legs should take place at least a day before so not to affect a good night’s sleep.
·         When it comes to using the toilet all bets are off – a free toilet is a free toiler no matter what gender is put over the door.

Yesterday’s training

‘Hold!!! Hold!!! Hold!!!’

There’s a line in the film Braveheart where Mel Gibson a.k.a. William Wallace a.k.a. Son of Scotland is holding the line as a wave of English soldiers on horseback bear down on him and his men. He has done the preparation ahead of the battle and is lying in wait with big sharp feck off 10 foot wooden poles that at the very last moment he’ll call his men to pull up and impale the English cavalry. As they get closer and closer at alarming pace he starts to shout ‘Hold!!! Hold!!! Hold!!!’ That’s kind of like tapering.

Of course, I am not referring to the impaling of your enemies at the last moment but the holding part. I am referring to the ‘hold!!!’

Tapering is difficult. The first week it is the best thing ever. You’ve worked you back-side off and the prospect of taking it easy is like a tropical island at sunset with good company and a cool bottle of beer. Heaven.

Week two and you begin to go stir crazy. Your body is screaming for miles and to be occupied and all you are meant to give it at most is the same amount of days out on the road but with much reduced workload.

By the weekend before the marathon you just want to take off and push the body out. You feel your fitness must be surely slipping away with every passing day that you are not out on the road or in the field pushing yourself. Every food you eat that isn’t pure healthy is an insult to the months of marathon miles and no amount of core work can prevent you from feeling pure guilty. It is at this stage that the runners and the road start to call you. It is at this stage you begin believing that a couple of tough sessions in the taper will be of no harm. It is at this stage that 8 miles into your last 8 mile run, or 10 miles in to your last 10 mile run or 12 miles in to your last 12 mile run is not enough and a few more won’t make a difference.

At this point you need to remember Mel’s words of wisdom “Hold!!! Hold!!! Hold!!!”. The oncoming English cavalry is the marathon and you have done the preparation so be brave and have patience until race day. Nothing you will do over your taper will make you any fitter, it can only make you less fit. You need to rest. You need to be ready. You need to hold and come Sunday morning 9.00 pm next week raise up your sticks and fight.

Friday’s training

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Favourite Tops

I’ve seen the Dublin Marathon medal for this year. It looks class. I like the medals for marathons. They are really solid yokes whose weight really give a solid sense of achievement. That said they can feel a little heavy when you get them, especially after 26.2 miles. While medals are a great way to seal the finish I tend to prefer the technical t-shirts that you get with races. This is probably due to the fact that you get to wear them as a badge of honour on your runs, something that is not easy to do with the medal!

I haven’t seen Dublin 2016’s t-shirt just yet but I’m hoping it will be a good one that might make my top three.

My top three technical tops:

Cork 2011 – Red is always a nice colour and this red was a rich claret made of the closest thing to silk I think you can get. Nothing exceptional in its images but to this day I love wearing it and it has come along with me under my Trim A.C. top in many a cold race.

Braveheart 2016 – It’s a technical top. It’s aluminous orange. You can wear it at night when you’re running. It has a cool looking runner print on it.  It’s from the local race. What’s not to like.

Barcelona 2015 – It’s always nice to have a foreign marathon top and since my cool Berlin 2008 top has disappeared, this quickly becoming faded Barcelona one is my favourite.

And then the not so good ones:

Dublin 2014 – With sponsors so late on board the t-shirt came late too with some questionable colours, questionable long sleeves and questionable collar it has seen very little light of day.

Connemarathon 2009 – Yes, the ‘I Hit the Wall’ does look kind of cool but it looks less cool if you got the exact same one last year for less.

Braveheart 2015 – It’s a technical top. It’s aluminous yellow. You can wear it at night when you’re running. But on the back of it you have the unfortunate design and mixture of sponsors that sees Aura Healthclub and Rentokil come up with the phrase Rentokil Where People Come to Feel Better”

Thursday’s Training
A lovely light 8k with the old friend David

Friday, October 21, 2016


There are two drawbacks to pedigree.

The first is that it doesn’t really work for humans, not like in the same way it works for say… horses. As a result, if you find yourself in the same race as Oisín Coe, Sean El Guerrouj or Cian Gebrselassie you probably have just as much a chance of winning as they do.

The second is that pedigree runs downhill rather than up, meaning if someone happens to be a distinguished runner it doesn’t mean that their pensionable parents will suddenly have great potential now too.

This is a pity because if pedigree did work for humans and did work uphill then I could be feeling pretty confident with my lot.

On my father’s side, my cousin’s daughter is doing great things over in Canada in Triathlons. She seems to be setting the province of Alberta alight with her performances in juvenile triathlon races. To put that in perspective Alberta is bigger than France with the population of Ireland. When I was her age, I got to the Community Games for Art in Meath but didn’t qualify.

Meanwhile on my mother’s side, another cousin’s daughter in the United States has been doing pretty good things on the track. It first came to our family’s attention when we heard she won a school race. We presumed it was an Irish thing when someone does well it is blown up to sound a lot greater, kind of like when Egg & Spoon and a Sack Race on the same day in Summerhill Sports Day 1988, and it was spoken about as if I had won Olympic Gold in Seoul.

Then we heard she won again and then again and then finally once more but this time at the Madison Square Somewhere. I quickly realised that they don’t do 3-legged races at the Madison Square Gardens and that she must be pretty good. So good in fact that she has since gone on to win a World Junior Championships, a USA Indoor 1,500 Championship and has a World Indoor Junior Record over 1,000. Go figure.

So it’s a bit of a pity on the pedigree thing.

Wednesday’s training

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A favourite 10 k

Looking around at me she asked out loud if she was in the wrong spot. While she would not have been entirely wrong, she wasn’t entirely right either. She was doing the Run in the Dark 10k like me. However, that was where our similarities ended. While I had a marathon not more than a month ago under my belt she had a pair of tracksuits bottoms on and was ‘vaping’, something not commonly associated with middle-distance runners of any background. But then it was the Run in the Dark 10k and people had come out from across Dublin and a bit beyond to run this city centre docklands run in aid of the Mark Pollock Trust.

I met Mark Pollock once. Kind of anyway. Myself and my friend Dave were running around Phoenix Park one early Saturday morning when we passed two men dragging tyres behind them. Unable to pass by with curiosity we asked what they were up to. Mark spoke first and explained that they were preparing to hike to the Antarctic. Two things immediately struck me. One was how in holding his head up as if waiting for the wind to carry back a response I noticed Mark was blind. The second was how utterly determined he looked.

He made it to the Antarctic in the end in an extraordinary fete of endurance. However just over a year later a catastrophic accident left him paralysed. Most would have given up, for Mark it was just the beginning and from this grew the Mark Pollock Trust where he set about trying to find a cure for spinal cord injuries. And from that the Run in the Dark came, a series of races that happen in some major cities across the globe every November.

The race itself should not be my favourite 10 k. Yes it is great to have the opportunity to dash the streets of Dublin that are usually closed to the runner. However, on both occasions I’ve found myself run into the backmarkers of the 5 k field coming to a close, some ‘vaping’ most not. In doing so it can feel a little like running into an asteroid field. That said I’ve always seemed to run well in it and back in 2014, not long after the disappointment of the 2014 Dublin Marathon I set my personal best here in a time of 37 mins and 09 seconds.

Yesterday’s training
Almost 10 k with 7 of those at 4.05 pace. Just to keep myself ticking over.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Treadmill

I was in a hotel up North last weekend and due to the weather, the roads, the uncertainty of the routes and the time I was reduced to the hotel’s gym and treadmill. Having basked on open roads, forest paths, urban fields and quiet lanes for the last five months running five miles on a treadmill was utter anathema to me. While I might have been kept dry from the driving rain outside the monotony of it was almost heart-breaking.

So to keep my mind off things at least for the first half after I had finished deciding what shade of white the walls were painted I thought of other things that are mind-numbing:

·         Watching paint dry.
·         Watching a wall being paint.
·         Palm Sunday when you’re 5.
·         5-day test cricket (when you don’t understand cricket).
·         A filibuster
·         Palm Sunday when you’re 12.
·         Waiting at that red-light near Blanchardstown Shopping Centre (substitute as necessary) at Christmas time.
·         Yesterday’s porridge.
·         Cemetery Sunday when the nun home from the missions goes on a solo-run with the decades of the rosaries.
·         A doctor’s waiting room when your phone is dead, the radio is dead, the last Now magazine is 5 years old and you’ve already read about the dangers of this year’s winter flu.
·         Palm Sunday any time really.

Monday’s training
An hour and 18 minutes. Roughly 16 k.

Sports Massages

When it comes to marathon training there are very few things that you could really consider as heavenly mid-session. I mean it is great when you are warmed-up and on the open road or at the very beginning of a fast tempo. And nothing quite beats the satisfaction of a training session done and done well. However, 5 miles in with 15 to go or into your second 800 of 8, you often find yourself having to grit teeth and stay moving.

There is one thing however that can be the closest thing to sporting luxury for its entire duration and that is the sports massage. While there is never a bad time to get a sports massage (though obviously not on the day of or immediately before a race or tough session) perhaps the most satisfying period to get one is mid-taper. Having put in the hard miles, the tough evenings and early mornings the sports massage is a perfect tonic and reward for the tough training being completed. That said there are two very different types of sports massage.

The first is the sports massages that are delivered by men and women who go by the nicknames such as ‘the Grip’, ‘Knuckles’, ‘Claws’ or ‘Iron Fists’. During these sessions they will manipulate/maul your muscles to such an extent that half-way through you won’t know if the towel they gave you is to rest your head on or to bite into. While occasionally required, especially for when your muscles are tense and in need of unknotting, they are generally feck all craic.

The other sports massage however is the one where the masseuse gives a thorough rub that, though firm, relaxes the muscles to a state of such luxury that they would happily sign over the deeds off the house along with the last three digits on the back of your credit card.

While the tenseness of your muscles will determine which massage you will need, I would, all things being equal, go for the latter.

Yesterday’s training